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Thailand scored 37 out of 100 in the Corruption Perceptions Index

Phuket and Corruption: Bribes a 'Way of Life' Without Action

Sunday, December 9, 2012
PHUKET: Earlier this week, corruption watchdog Transparency International released its annual ranking of public sector corruption in different countries around the globe.

Things do not seem to have grown any worse for Thailand, but that also means that things aren't getting any better.

Thailand's score of 37 out of 100 (where 0 means a country's public sector is seen as highly corrupt and 100 is highly clean) is an indicator that people who interact with political life and administrative services like the police, land authorities, healthcare and education, encounter corruption on an all too regular basis.

It means that people cannot trust that decisions are fair, consumers might pay more for goods and services, safety standards might not be as good as they should be, and regulations designed to protect the environment might be ignored.

Graft in Phuket is no worse than other parts of Thailand, according Dr Sirichai Silpa-Ar-Cha, the Phuket Chamber of Commerce Secretary General.

The biggest problem, says Dr Sirichai, is a lack of clarity around laws and regulations. Without a checklist that is easy for both the public and officials to follow, the approval criteria for permits and licenses can depend on the judgement of individual public servants.

''If the regulation system were clearer people wouldn't do the wrong thing,'' Dr Sirichai says.

When public officials are underpaid, this can also create an incentive for them to behave badly, according to Dr Sirichai.

''Police might not have enough money to pay for fuel so they ask for bribes from people who don't wear motorcycle helmets.''

A public opinion survey by Transparency International in 2010 found that almost one in four people in Thailand reported paying a bribe in the previous year.

But that same survey also found that most people in Thailand think that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.

It's a view shared by more than 1500 young Thais who will take to the streets of Bangkok today to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.

''We're taking a pledge to refuse to be corrupt and we are asking the public to take that stand with us,'' said Sayuti Salam, the President of the campaign group, Thai Youth Anti-Corruption Network.

''If we are going to fight corruption in Thailand, we have to start with ourselves first.''

As many as 600 students from Southern Thailand will participate in today's rally, which starts at 3pm at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

There are hopes that young people will lead the call for more openness and honesty across the country.

Transparency Thailand has been running education programs with students and teachers. The organisation will talk about its work in an event next Thursday in Bangkok along with the Centre for Philanthropy and Civil Society and NIDA.

''If we want to reduce corruption, it will depend on political will and punishment for those who are found guilty", says Kanokkan Anukansai, Director of Thailand's Centre for Philanthropy and Civil Society.

But Thailand is not alone in facing worrying levels of corruption.

Two-thirds of the countries in Transparency International's index scored below 50, indicating that ''public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable,'' says the organisation.

Finland, Denmark and New Zealand tied for top position in this year's index. Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia came in last place with a score of eight.

Sophie Brown, a journalism masters student at the University of Hong Kong, is currently an intern at Phuketwan. She is a former communications officer at Transparency International.

Comments

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"Police might not have enough money to pay for fuel so they ask for bribes from people who don't wear motorcycle helmets."
Nice sentence! Anyone think, police ask because no fuel in poloce vehicles?

"The biggest problem, says Dr Sirichai, is a lack of clarity around laws and regulations. Without a checklist ..."

One thing, another, if we stay close to the police: Pay them better, don't let them legally get their share from every fine, to rise the monthly salary! And kick them out of job (not transfer them to another station/province), in case they accept bribes:
"..t will depend on political will and punishment for those who are found guilty", says Kanokkan Anukansai"

Posted by Anonymous on December 9, 2012 11:41

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I'm happy that my country was on the top of the list as usual but what really worries me is the statement that corruption is no worse on Phuket than elsewhere in Thailand.

Almost all of my Thai friends tell me the opposite but if that's not the case, then Thailand is in much deeper trouble than I thought.

Posted by Andrew on December 9, 2012 13:42

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I have to say honestly, that even though I like Phuket (Thailand) I do not feel safe here. Life here is exciting in many ways, but I do not really trust the local authorities and seeing the JetSki-Mafia, TukTuk-Mafia, etc. on a daily basis how can one deny that there are serious concerns that need to be handled. I was actually surprised Thailand got 37 points. I expected less.

Posted by Jakub P. on December 9, 2012 17:36

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@ Andrew: 'Graft in Phuket is no worse than other parts of Thailand'. This is sadly true. I have friends with businesses in Chiang Mai & Korat who have to pay off the police even though their business is legal & fully certified. My Thai girl friend is setting up a small family business on the outskirts of Korat & she admits they will have to pay the police something. I & many of my friends who have driven to various parts of central Thailand are often stopped by the police for some apparent misdemeanor which mysteriously disappears if you discretely pass a small bank note over the window sill (at the behest of our Thai partner). These are but a few examples. The sums may not be quite as large as in Phuket, but the demands do exist. Honest Thais are embarrassed to admit this, but they are as much on the receiving end as we are.

Posted by Logic on December 9, 2012 18:37

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I have a family member, not a friend of a friend of a friend, who wanted to invest 18 Billion, yes Billion Baht in Thailand. Did all the preparatory work, got the lawyers etc to do due diligence etc.
They were to be on a long term stay of ten years.
Holy cow, they only lasted seven months, citing the blatant corruption and greed, they left. They will never return.
Yes corruption is a a serious cancer that is eating Thailand to the point of signing, " This is the end, my only friend the end....."

Posted by Robin on December 9, 2012 21:12

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Amazed it's 37 I felt sure it would be around the 10 mark the corruption here has reach levels on a par with Afghanistan like the projects that never achieve the hype and are made of inferior materials that end up falling apart in no time while costing the tax payers top dollar.Or the death traps that are made of toxic products that end up taking innocent lives. Nothing will change here these people are sewn into the fabric of this island and nobody in power will stamp it out it's endemic

Posted by Scunner on December 9, 2012 21:17

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Corruption exists in every country but certainly the level of corruption at the high end will inevitably hold a country back in the long term.In terms of investment i know many countries are more corrupt than Thailand and still there is investment.

Posted by reader on December 10, 2012 08:29

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I'm learning about corruption first hand in light of a recent car crash. While at a dead stop waiting to turn right across two lanes of traffic, an oncoming motorbike weaved back and forth across those two lanes and smashed head on at full speed into the front of my truck, right between the headlights. The police and the insurance adjuster and in fact even the family of the motorbike driver (a 16-year-old with no helmet and with a pocket full of playing cards indicating he'd been gambling, which is illegal) are in agreement that I was not at fault. And yet, I'm getting pressured from all sides to pay for the boy's medical care and for the repair to his bike as well as for the repairs to my own vehicle. I am resisting, and as a result, the police (Chalong) are not issuing a report with conclusions and my insurance cannot pay out. I've been told by my paralegal that the only way to get past this is to admit to guilt so that my insurance will pay compensation to the "victim" and pay for the repairs to his scooter. I've also been advised to give a tip to the investigating officer in order to get the ball rolling again. In my country this is called insurance fraud and bribery. Here it seems to be the status quo.

Posted by Rawai long-term resident expat on December 10, 2012 10:16

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Rawai long-term resident expat; I am glad I do not have your insurance you should get a better company. My auto insurance will pay out on damages to my car without a police report.

Posted by mike on December 10, 2012 13:59

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Seems Thai authorities are loath to fix something that still works since the money keeps flowing into their pockets and the economy.
Perhaps the priority for change should be tourist safety.
Think most expats have learned how to take care of themselves.

Posted by David on September 23, 2013 09:26


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